In the old
days (and yes, in IT that does not necessarily mean that many years ago), it
was common for a single IT person or even a non-IT person to handle many of the
ongoing technology-related issues at cities. For cities that could afford it,
some hired an IT person who served more like a repairperson. When problems arose,
the “repairperson” would arrive onsite, put out the fire, and leave.
technology evolves and becomes not only more complicated but also more critical
to the functioning of cities, the IT staff or repairperson model reveals
significant limitations. But many cities often think of a 24/7 helpdesk as too
expensive or a “nice to have” that may be overkill.
five important ways your city can benefit from a 24/7 helpdesk—and why they are
not just “nice to have” anymore.
If there’s a
theme with these benefits, it’s that you get a lot of bang for a very small
buck. 24/7 helpdesks evolved out of a need for efficiency and responsiveness—requiring
quick problem resolution with the most knowledge on hand. As time has gone on,
24/7 helpdesks have become more cost-effective and affordable for smaller
Exploring a modernized IT services solution in which your IT needs are taken care of 24/7? Contact us to chat further.
the first time cyberattacks have been used as part of a war, the fact that two
non-nation organizations are battling each other in the cyberworld during a
very real international conflict is significant. It’s a sign that cyberattacks are
continually becoming more sophisticated and prevalent. As a result, are you starting
to worry more about the potential for a cyberattack?
you may see yourself as a small or medium size city doesn’t mean you are less
of a target for extremely sophisticated hackers. Without the proper
precautions, cities are vulnerable to data breaches and stolen information.
hackers aren’t messing around when they attack, cities cannot treat
cybersecurity lightly. If you’re worried about cyberattacks, then you need to
ask yourself the following questions about your city.
obvious prevention is often the most overlooked. Make sure you secure your
server rooms so that only authorized people can access them. Require that
employees lock their computers so that unauthorized people can’t hop on and
access information. In addition, one of the biggest sources of cyberattacks is
employee accident. Hackers usually gain access by getting employees to click on
malicious email attachments and website links. Once they give up sensitive
information like passwords, hackers have what they need to steal and exploit
your data. Train employees on an ongoing basis about cyberattacks and how to
watch out for malicious emails and websites.
to make cyberattacks easy is to rarely modernize or upgrade your software.
Older software usually cannot keep up with the evolution of information
security, and its aging code will offer more ways for hackers to break into
that software to steal information. An extreme example is how many businesses
and organizations continue to use Windows XP despite Microsoft no longer
supporting it. If you use old software, consider modernizing it to lessen the
risk. And especially keep up on any software upgrades, updates, and patches to
plug up any security holes.
passwords or sloppy password management (such as writing passwords on sticky
notes for everyone to see) are another common way to open up your city to
cyberattacks. Use strong passwords with uppercase and lowercase letters,
numbers, and symbols, and force people to change them on a regular basis. This
applies to your IT staff too. We have sometimes found instances where cities
had extremely weak passwords to access servers and other important databases.
Again, prevent cyberattacks by starting with the obvious entry points.
Free or consumer-grade
antivirus software managed by employees doesn’t cut it. Your city needs
enterprise-class antivirus software that’s installed by IT professionals,
regularly kept up-to-date, and managed. That way, your IT staff or vendor help
prevent viruses from ever entering your city and they’re alerted in case of a
access points continue to be another overlooked entry point for cyberattacks. Amateur
hackers have become quite good at sniffing around for open wireless access
points, accessing sensitive information, and stealing data. Keep public and
private networks separate, shore up any weak points by giving your wireless
access points strong passwords, and encrypt your wireless data.
You can take
care of every other issue mentioned above and still have a gaping hole in your
website. Hackers often like to exploit poor website security by replacing your
public-facing website with another website that seeks to embarrass you, pose as
your website to collect sensitive information from citizens, or generate
malware and spyware that pops up on a person’s browser. Basically, your website
vendor needs to be reputable and allow a third party to audit your website for
through each of these questions, you’ll better know if you’re prepared or if
you’re opening yourself up for a cyberattack. If you answered “no” to a lot of
the questions above, then take action. The minute you start solving these
problems, the sooner you can begin addressing risks that can cause a lot of
damage to your city.
Need help assessing your ability to fight off a cyberattack? Reach out to us.
already know that document management systems will help them with storing and
accessing documents in a central location. But there are a lot of lesser-known
advantages within a modern document management system that will help a city
save time, increase productivity, and just plain old make your job easier.
these document management systems often contain a dizzying array of features,
we’ve sifted through them and highlighted a few that you might not know about.
And we think you’ll agree that these features will help any city clerk or staff
who deals with documents every day.
When you’re working on documents with multiple people, it can be
difficult to create a draft that incorporates everyone’s feedback. Document
management systems allow you to work on documents together (sometimes even in
real-time) with all edits tracked. That way, you know you’re looking at the
current work in progress. This feature makes document collaboration much easier
and less confusing.
One of the biggest pains for many people at cities is trying
to figure out what document is the latest version. You struggle to figure out
who has the latest version and sometimes you may work on a version not knowing
that another person created the latest, greatest draft. With document
versioning, you can see the latest document version in seconds so that you know
you’re working with the right one.
practical level, restricting document editing helps “lock” documents when
someone is editing them. That way, you’ll know that no one is making changes to
the latest version as you’re editing it. More importantly, restricting access to
documents helps with security and records management. You can make sure only
authorized users access and share specific documents.
document archiving introduces the risk of making mistakes or overlooking
documents. By setting up automated archiving features built around your records
retention policies, you can make sure that documents are managed based on clear
rules. This mitigates the risk of problems with open records requests.
document management systems offer a lot of ways for you to tag documents to
make them easier to find. Tagging helps you find documents without necessarily
having to dig through chaotic folders that various people have created over
time. For example, you might tag documents by department, project, author,
event, year, etc. Then when you use the normal search or advanced search
function, documents will come up that match your search terms. It may take some
upfront planning and time investment to tag documents, but it’s worth it.
important point about the five benefits above is that your document management
system won’t magically solve all of your problems. Instead, you’ll rely on your
document management system to help you carry out important business processes
such as creating, revising, finalizing, approving, storing, archiving,
labeling, securing, and decommissioning documents. The good news? What used to
be difficult to enforce and carry out becomes much easier in a document
Questions about how a document management system can improve your city? Reach out to us to talk about your particular situation.
have some form of data backup. But it troubles us to find a lot of uncertainty
about actually recovering that data if a disaster hits. In a FierceITSecurity article from late last year, the online magazine reported:
“Data loss has increased 400 percent
since 2012, while 71 percent of enterprises are not fully confident in their
ability to recover after a disruption, according to a survey of 3,300 IT
decision makers by Vanson Bourne on behalf of EMC.”
likely that you’re doing something to back up your data, those efforts may not
be enough to recover your data.
you can recover after backing up your data? Ask yourself the following five
This is the
most critical aspect of making sure you can recover your data. It’s essential
to perform a full disaster recovery simulation at least once every quarter to
make sure you can actually recover your data. Don’t find out you can’t recover your
data after a disaster occurs. By then, it’s too late. During a test, assess your
data backup and disaster recovery effectiveness, identify issues, and solve
those issues as soon as possible.
You’re not backing up if you’re just replicating data in the cloud or on
a server. Erasing replicated data in one place will erase it in all places.
Backing up also doesn’t mean using business class servers such as RAID servers
(that duplicate data within the same server) or other virtualization
technologies that allow multiple servers to be hosted within one server. Sure,
using those technologies reduces risks and increases efficiencies, but what if
something happens to that entire server? Backed up data needs to be stored both
in a completely separate location onsite and in a distant data center (preferably
a cloud data center) offsite.
We’ve written about this subject in the past as we’ve reported on the downfalls of relying on consumer-grade data
backup. The biggest risk of cheap, do-it-yourself consumer-grade data backup is
that you may not be backing up all of your critical files. Only managed,
business-grade data backup and disaster recovery ensures that you are backing
up all of your critical data and that it can be recovered. A business-grade
data backup solution also makes sure you answer “yes” to questions 1 and 2
Just because you’re backing up your
data doesn’t mean it will easily reload in a timely fashion onto any possibly existing
dated servers or even procured new servers. Time-to-recovery advantages that
modern technology offers creates the benefit of being able to have your data and
systems back up and running much faster. In addition, the quality of your
networking equipment (such as your data transfer speed) may also affect your
ability to recover quickly. Make sure your technology is modern enough to
handle full data recovery.
answer “yes” to the four questions above...for onsite data backup. But if
you’re not backing up offsite, you’re still at risk of not recovering after a
disaster. A fire, flooding, or a tornado can jeopardize your best onsite data
backup efforts. And don’t think that “offsite” means a building next door or
down the block. The same disaster that hits your building can also hit the
building nearby. Offsite means geographically dispersed, preferably in data
centers in different parts of the country.
backup, your goal is not just to back up the data. Your goal is to recover it.
Work at addressing your data backup gaps until you can answer “yes” to the five
questions above. Until then, your city has some important work to do!
questions about your ability to recover your data? Reach out to us.
shows that people make a snap judgment about you through your website in 50 milliseconds. Given that people tend to research
and find out about your city primarily through your website, that first impression
is significant, crucial, and important.
So, for the
citizens you serve, the businesses considering relocating or expanding, and
people looking for places to move—how’s your website doing? What’s that first
get busy with other projects and tend to neglect their websites. If you’re one
of those cities, don’t worry! It’s a brand new year, so here are five questions
you can ask yourself to see if your website needs a 2016 overhaul.
That first impression is quite visual. People look at the
layout, design, colors, fonts, and arrangement of text and visuals. If it looks
crappy and run down, guess what people will think about your city? Take steps to
modernize and freshen the look and feel of your website. You don’t have to go
overboard, but that visual first impression is incredibly important.
easy to not think about your core website content for a long time. As years
pass, contact information becomes inaccurate from people leaving, department
information grows outdated, and new information hasn’t been posted. People can
quickly see if you take care of your website by checking out a few key
webpages. Just like you wouldn’t abandon your city hall for months on end, you
shouldn’t abandon your website once you set it up. Review it periodically to
look bad when the last news item is from 2013 or city council minutes take too
long to get posted online. Websites are your public-facing information resource
with your audiences: citizens, businesses, prospective residents, and visitors.
To look vital, you need to share news, events, city council meeting
information, and updated information about departments on a regular basis.
Increasingly, citizens with computers, smartphones,
and tablets are turning to your city’s website to make payments, apply for
business licenses, or download forms. If they have to drive down to city hall
or talk to someone on the phone for simple tasks, then you’re creating a huge
inconvenience for them. Make sure you’re offering basic citizen service options
like online payments, explanations of common processes, and any needed
documents and forms.
website is boring, hard to navigate, and doesn’t appeal to a person’s different
ways of consuming information. Consider a more constant supply of photos,
images, and videos to add some visual appeal to your website. Examples include
posting photos from events, showing images that touch upon the history of your
city, and providing videos of city council meetings. This kind of visual
content is also great for sharing on social media like Facebook or YouTube.
As you can
see, people expect a lot more from websites than they did even 10 years ago.
They truly are an information hub and a first impression for visitors. Similar
to how you keep city hall looking great for walk-in visitors, you need to keep
your website looking just as good for online visitors.
Considering an overhaul of your website in the new year? Reach out to us with any questions.
As you wade
into a new year, it’s inevitable that you will soon take a close look at your
city budget. That includes your technology spending, including both operational
and capital technology costs. A few years ago, we wrote a series of three
articles about municipal IT budgeting that have proved popular every new year.
We recommend you read these three articles (scroll down below) to explore the
areas discussed in this post in more depth.
this post we’re providing a quick basic overview of technology budgeting based
on these three articles. Many cities do not clearly break out technology as a
line item in their budget or they tend to lump it in with various departments.
It’s worth looking at technology budgeting as clearly as possible to understand
where you might be losing money or failing to invest properly for important
business activities and projects.
technology is an obvious place to start with technology budgeting. If hardware,
software, your website, or data backup constantly fail you, then you are losing
money due to lessened productivity and effectiveness. You may need to invest
more in certain technologies if you underinvest or take dangerous shortcuts. The
most common broken technology symptoms include:
maybe your technology works. But have you performed a cost analysis lately? You
may find that newer, modern technology solutions and services exist that can
trim down your technology budget. Unlike Area 1, the goal of Area 2 is to save
money if you’re spending too much. Some costly technology areas often include:
Even if you
have modernized technology, it may not help your city achieve specific goals
related to the city’s vision or to assist with important projects. Technology
is not simply another utility. Wise technology investments can help you achieve
important city business goals in less time and/or with an end result even
better than what you originally envisioned. Some key areas to focus on include:
three-part series for more information about each area. When budgeting for
technology, make sure you look at your broken technology, places where
technology might cost you more than you need to pay, and opportunities for
technology to help your city meet its most important goals.
about your technology budget, or not sure where to start? Reach out to us.
A new year provides a good excuse to take a fresh look at
your city’s information technology. After all, it’s 2016. The great thing about
information technology today is that many services have drastically improved in
quality while lowering in cost over the last few years. If you haven’t taken a
fresh look at your information technology during the last two or three years,
then you might be missing out on some powerful cost savers and productivity
But where do you begin? Here are some technology areas and
questions to help you assess the current state of your IT. Use this assessment
to help you take a fresh 2016 look at your city’s technology investments.
Today, many people first go to your website to find online
services, research your city, or look for city council information. That means
your website needs to work even harder than city hall to provide information on
a constant basis and serve as the first impression of your city for many
people. Because first impressions are so important, ask yourself:
Currently, many cities use aging, unreliable, or incomplete
data backup solutions that fail during a crisis. Data backup is one of those
things that goes unnoticed—until a server fails or a disaster strikes. In those
moments, you may discover too late that you cannot recover critical data. Ask
As you may know, finding information is half the battle when
it comes to open records requests. But many cities use insufficient email
programs or lack modern document management systems. Free or cheap email
software prevents cities from easily finding information and blurs the
boundaries between personal and business email. And if your city isn’t storing
documents in a centralized place where authorized people can easily search for
information, then you’re making city business that much harder for yourself.
Many cities slow down to a crawl because of aging equipment.
Old servers, workstations, and network equipment (like routers or firewalls)
can lead to constant crashes, slow computers, and frustrated employees. Plus,
aging software that consists of expensive servers and software licenses may
need revisiting by looking at some modern cloud options. Ask yourself:
Do you have overworked IT staff who take a long time to get
to technical issues? Or maybe you use an “IT repairperson” of sorts who comes
over every now and then to fix a lot of issues at once? In the meantime,
lingering technology issues means your employees wait a long time for fixes and
struggle to do their work. A 24/7 helpdesk used to be a luxury for many
organizations, but today they have become more cost effective. For way less
than an IT person’s salary, you get experienced engineers constantly working on
any IT issue you throw at them. Ask yourself:
With this assessment, you’ll be able to quickly identify if
you have any problem areas or opportunity for improvement. If at least three of
these areas worry you, then seriously consider evaluating the current state of
your information technology in depth. Look for more modern, cost-effective
options that meet the needs of your employees while lessening the number of
Want to talk about any of these areas in more detail? Reach out to us today.
According to the most recent data as of this post,
Windows 10 has only about 9% market share. Most people and businesses are still
using Windows 7, Windows 8 (including 8.1), and even the now dangerously
outdated Windows XP. If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10, you’re definitely
about the benefits of upgrading to Windows 10, you might be tempted by any
number of things: a better look and feel, more features and benefits, and even
just the lure of trying the latest, greatest thing.
If your city
wants to upgrade to Windows 10, then at least consider the following things as
you evaluate your decision.
We don’t have a
cut and dry answer for your city if you want to upgrade. However, we can (and
do) bring up the concerns and comments above to help a city through its decision.
As with most new operating systems, you’ll find that it takes a long time until
the majority of businesses adopt a new one. Many software vendors will support
the most common operating systems a couple of releases back. But we do strongly
recommend, as with any new technology, to make sure you consult with your IT
staff or vendor before performing any upgrades.
questions about Windows 10? Reach out to us today.
A recent GovTech article pointed out that “...80 percent of
information security professionals have experienced a data leak and call the
problem a substantial concern.” So what’s a data leak? For an obvious example,
think about when an employee shares sensitive information through email to the
wrong people by accident. Quite simply, a data leak is when information becomes
available to unauthorized people.
worry about threats from the outside such as hackers and disasters that
threaten data loss. But GovTech
rightly points out that data leaks can affect your information security just as
So what can
you do? Here are five tips to help not only with preventing data leaks but also
to help tighten your overall information security.
thinking about information security, it’s much easier to think about the big
threats like hackers and viruses. But the day to day actions of your employees
can also contribute to information security vulnerabilities. Taking the time to
modernize your technology, proactively monitor and maintain it, and set up a
strong employee policy will tremendously help in preventing both data breaches
Need a fresh
look at your information security? Reach out to us with your questions.
You might have seen CEO Dave Mims’s recent video that shows many great examples of modern city
websites that not only look great but also have begun impacting the lives of
citizens. As Dave says in the video, when people first think about your city,
where will they go first? That’s right. Your website.
So, if they’re going to your website as an introduction to
your city, are they seeing a website that reflects your community well?
If your answer is not a resounding YES, then you might want
to explore modernizing your website. Luckily, what we talk about below can be
done extremely cost-effectively—just as we’ve done for many of the city
examples you will see.
Let’s look more closely at the benefits of a modern website
that most help cities.
As you can see with the City of Marshallville, Georgia’s website, a great modern look and feel can convey some
powerful messages about your city’s beauty and charm. You have cost-effective
options to not only modernize your website but customize it based on the unique
aspects of your city. Maybe it’s your history, tourist attractions, economic
strengths, or beautiful parks and scenery. Whatever it is, your website needs
to serve as a beautiful, warm welcome that conveys a lot of important things
about your city in the first few seconds that someone sees it.
A city like Dawsonville, Georgia uses its new website to keep citizens informed about news
and events. Because it’s so easy to upload content to this modern website, city
staff can post information in seconds. Citizens stay engaged by signing up for
a newsletter or sending in their own events—all from the city website. A modern
website allows cities to create as many pages as they need to help the specific
needs of citizens and businesses. Content such as city council agendas and
minutes, meetings, calendars, videos, and photos all keep citizens informed,
educated, and up-to-date about city happenings.
3. Online payments
give citizens and businesses better customer service and more flexible,
As you can see with the City of Bethel Heights, Arkansas, they offer the ability to pay sewer bills and tickets.
Many people are accustomed to paying bills online, and so citizens come to
expect the same kind of service from cities. In our digital age, it’s
frustrating if snail mail, phone, or in-person payments are the only options.
By providing online payments, you are giving your citizens and businesses an
extremely convenient way to conduct business with your city.
4. Let your city
website do some “heavy lifting” by providing useful content 24/7.
You can only give in-person tours during the day, but Jonesboro, Georgia gives
an online historical tour of its city 24/7. This is just one example of a great
way to let your website work for you when you’re not working. There are many
creative ways to provide information through photos, videos, and text to create
tours, guides, and checklists about anything important related to your city.
People can access this information anytime / anywhere, allowing them to learn
more about your city and get their questions answered—without you lifting a
5. Quickly direct
people to information.
Most importantly, you want your city website to speedily
direct people to the information they need. The City of Georgetown, Kentucky does
an excellent job by providing some quick links along with clear steps such as
“Ask a Question or Make a Request,” “Find Information,” and “View My
Questions/Requests.” While you want to present some softer content like tours,
pictures, and city history, never forget that citizens often come to find
specific information—fast. And you need to deliver that information and make it
easy to find.
Watch Dave’s video for a quick recap of these benefits and reach out to us if you’re interested in modernizing your website.
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